trees in Croatiatrees in CroatiaUrban trees are a valuable asset to any city. (Photo: xbrchx/Shutterstock)

How to measure the greenness of your city

A new database called Treepedia gets up close and personal with your city's tree life.

If a tree grows in Brooklyn, Treepedia knows. The state-of-the-art database is a sweeping look at the density of urban trees in about a dozen cities around the world – including Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Paris, London, Geneva and Tel Aviv.

The database, known as Treepedia, provides detailed maps of the layout of a city's greenery. It was developed by a team of innovators at MIT and the World Economic Forum as a measurement of the urban "green canopy," or the density of trees and plants in large cities, to provide city dwellers with a more comprehensive look at the location and size of the trees in their community. Users can see which areas are green and not green in a city, investigate the amount of green coverage at a given point, and compare their city to different cities around the world.

Not sure where your city ranks in tree density? Check Treepedia.Not sure where your city ranks in tree density? Check Treepedia. (Photo: MIT Senseable City Lab)

The goal, they say, is simple: help more people understand the value of urban greenery. It's something Carlo Ratti, the Italian architect and engineer who's leading the project and serves as director of MIT's Senseable City Lab, has worked toward for the bulk of his career.

“As many cities experience warming temperatures, increased storm frequency, and continued air pollution, the well-being of our urban trees has never been more important," Ratti, who runs an architectural firm in Turin, Italy, when he's not teaching at MIT, said in a statement.

Carlo Ratti is an Italian architect who studies the environmental impact of digital technologies.Carlo Ratti is an Italian architect who studies the environmental impact of digital technologies. (Photo: Nadine Rupp/Getty Images)

Following its initial launch of 10 cities, Treepedia plans to expand in more municipalities across the globe. In the future, users will also have the possibility to add unique tree information on an open-source street map and engage with city officials in order to request that new trees be planted in certain areas.

“The future of cities cannot be one of unsustainable expansion; it should rather be one of tireless innovation," said Alice Charles of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities, which collaborated with MIT to develop Treepedia. "We hope that this endeavor will give citizens a greater appreciation of their city’s green canopy and appreciate that the green canopy can assist in responding to climate change.”

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